Lizzie's Secret

By: Rosie Clarke

Prologue

It was dark, so dark and cold. The girl shivered as she heard the footsteps behind her. They were coming closer and the alley seemed endless. She would never reach safety before he caught up with her. The sound of his harsh breathing was close and she gave a cry of fear as she ran faster. She had to get away or he would catch her and then the nightmare would be real. Taking a deep breath, she ran harder and faster, but as fast as she ran he was always there, pursuing her down the dark alley, and she knew that whatever she did he would geter.

‘No, please no, don’t hurt me…’ She could smell the stink of foul breath and knew he was too strong for her and she screamed, but it was no good… no good…

‘Wake up,’ a strident voice broke into her nightmare. ‘It’s all right, girl. You’re quite safe here. You were just having a bad dream.’

‘Where am I?’ she asked, aware now of the narrow bed with its hard mattress and the low, shaded light. The woman standing over her was dressed in the uniform of a nurse, her dark hair peeping from beneath a white starched cap. ‘What happened to me? Where am I?’

‘You don’t remember – any of it?’ the nurse looked disbelieving.

‘No, I only know…’ She broke off as she realised she didn’t even know her own name. Fear scythed through her as she saw the bars on the windows. ‘Who am I – and why am I here?’

‘Don’t play games! You’ve been brought to this place because your aunt felt it impossible to keep you at home in the circumstances.’

‘What circumstances?’ The fear was rising in her, because she was gradually becoming aware that this was an institution of some kind and she somehow knew that she was a prisoner here. ‘Why am I in this place? What have I done? I want to go home…’ And yet she did not know where home was. ‘Please tell me where I am. What is this place?’

‘It’s an institution for fallen girls. Don’t worry; you’re only here until after the event. Your uncle insisted that they want you back – but your aunt wants to hush this up…’

‘Hush what up? What have I done?’

‘From what I gather it’s more a case of what someone else did to you,’ the nurse said. ‘You were attacked…’

‘Nurse Simpkins!’ A sharp voice cut in. ‘You know what Doctor said. No talking to this patient until he’s seen her.’

‘Sorry, Sister, but she was asking questions…’

‘Well, that’s an improvement, young lady,’ an older version of the nurse came into her view. ‘We’d begun to think you would never come back to us. I’ll tell Doctor you’re awake. Would you like a drink of water?’

‘Could I have a cup of tea please?’ She reached out to touch the Sister’s arm. ‘Please, why am I here? Have I done something wrong? Who am I?’

‘So many questions all at once. I think we’ll leave it to Doctor to explain – and just water at first. We don’t want you being sick all over the place. You’ve been asleep a long time…’

‘How long?’

‘Doctor will explain. Rest now and my nurse has a glass of water for you.’

‘Little sips now,’ the nurse held the glass to her lips. She swallowed a few sips, found it more difficult than she’d expected and fell back against the pillows, her eyes closing.

‘I think she’s fallen asleep again…’

‘Yes, but it is a proper sleep this time. I daresay she’s exhausted…’

‘Do you think she really can’t recall anything?’

The voices seemed to come from a long way off, as if she were shrouded by an impenetrable fog, their words making no sense, as she lost the battle to stay awake.

‘I think it’s genuine. She was very ill after the miscarriage – sometimes a long illness like that leaves the patient unable to recall, but the amnesia may not be permanent.’

‘Perhaps it’s best for her if she never remembers exactly what happened. She’ll grieve for the babe if she remembers it…’

‘We’re not supposed to get too friendly with these girls. They are here for discipline and because their families are ashamed of them…’

‘Yes, but she was attacked and raped…’

‘That’s enough, nurse. Perhaps this case is a little different, but the outcome was the same – the uncle and aunt wouldn’t have the child had she gone full term… at least, the uncle might have done, but she was set against it. It’s best the girl doesn’t know too much…’

The darkness was claiming her. She was sinking back into its welcoming arms, shutting out everything, leaving all the pain and the distress behind. She wasn’t ready to know, didn’t want to remember, because it hurt too much and she wasn’t strong enough. If she once looked back and saw his face she would remember and that would be too painful…





Chapter 1

‘Are you here for the job too?’ Lizzie Larch looked at the girl sitting next to her on the hard wooden chair. She was a pretty girl with soft fair hair and blue eyes. ‘I don’t reckon we stand much chance, do you?’